Weekly News Round Up

Updates on the Genocide Trial:
The trial of Efraín Ríos Mont and José Rodríguez Sánchez for genocide and crimes against humanity on August 14th of this year. Rodríguez Sánchez’s defense filed an injunction against the decision by Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez to send the former military leader to trial. According to Rodríguez Sánchez’s lawyer, Gálvez did not explain the reasons for open debate against his client. Ríos Montt’s defense has now filed a similar legal action in which he claims that the crime he is being charged with does not exist in the legal code. Ríos Montt has also objected to the fact that Judge Patricia Flores is presiding over his appeal to the Court of Constitutionality. His lawyers claim that Flores is unfit to hear his case because she was recused from the proceedings against Héctor Mario López Fuentes, also accused of genocide.

International Crisis Group warns against use of military in maintaining public order
In a recent report featuring the October incident in Totonicapán, the ICG warned about the dangers of using the military to maintain public order in the country, especially where marches and social protests are concerned. Mary Speck, an analyst from ICG, observed that tensions are higher in indigenous areas where issues of mining, access to land, electricity and education have been prominent. She pointed out that these conditions have made the creation of trained civil security forces all the more urgent. The civil security forces should be used to confront protests without the use of violence.

Xincas oppose mining activity
Xinca communities and organizations demanded an end to the licensing of mining projects  in their territory in Santa Rosa, Jutiapa because of environmental damage. Juan Pablo López, director of the Coordinating Council of the Xinka People asked that the Environmenal Ministry consult with the indigenous communities before releasing a decision on environmental impact studies. López says that the San Rafael Las Flores mining company contaminates more than 6 million liters of water in the area daily.

Mayor of San Juan Sacatepéquez denounces opposition to well
Oscar Fernando Bracamonte, mayor of San Juan Sacatepéquez, denounced what he called “illegal groups” that he claims have held the people of San Antonio Las Trojes hostage in their opposition to the installation of a mechanical well. He placed the blame on Daniel Pascual and the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) for fomenting violence and dividing the people of San Juan. Pascual countered by saying that Bracamontes’ comments were irresponsible and added that the CUC does not have any bases in that municipality.

Human Rights Ombudsman investigating 28 cases of forced disappearance
The cases involve 70 people who disappeared during the internal armed conflict.The investigation has been ordered by the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). According to Jorge de León Duque, Human Rights Ombudsman, the cases are expected to move forward slowly because the courts are backlogged.

Fellowship of Reconciliation analyzes DOD contracts in Latin America with a focus on Guatemala
According to the report, Department of Defense contracts in Guatemala have more than doubled since 2010. The ban on most State Department-channeled military aid to the army is still in effect but this ban does not apply to Defense Department assistance. The $14 million in contracts in 2012 amounts to more than seven times the total in 2009.

Suspension of construction in Santa Cruz Barillas requested
A group from of about 100 people from the town of Barillas took to the local government offices on February 7th to demand an answer to a request sent last month to local leaders. The petition was read aloud from the balcony of city hall. The municipal leader assured the people that he had never signed any construction permits for the Hidro Santa Cruz company. The crowd then read out an act signed by the municipal leader and city clerk in December authorizing construction. The leader then assured the crowd that that document had been suspended and had no effect. A discussion between the local leaders and community resulted in the signing of an agreement wherein the civil society and the local council requested that the hydroelectric company suspend construction. The signing of this document is being hailed as a victory for the town of Barillas.

Intermediate phase hearing for massacre at Totonicapán begins
The intermediate phase hearing in the case of the massacre at Totonicapán began on Friday, February 8th. The purpose of the hearing is to try the nine soldiers accused of crimes of extrajudicial execution so that a formal indictment may be made by the public prosecutor and a public debate can begin. One of the accused soldiers, Colonel Juan Chiroy, argues that the villagers he fired on were armed and had injured the soldiers. The prosecutors objected to this testimony, showing evidence that the injuries received by the military were mild. The defense is claiming that the soldiers were provoked and that the demonstrations were not peaceful. The prosecution claimed that Chiroy did not heed the warning by his subordinates that the situation was under control and instead ordered them to exit the vehicles they were traveling in.

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